Thursday, September 10, 2009

Les Fleurs Animées

"Your Majesty, the flowers here present beg you to accept their homage, and to lend a favorable ear to their humble complaint.

For thousands of years we have supplied mankind with their themes of comparison; we alone have given them all their metaphors; indeed, without us poetry could not exist. Men lend to us their virtues and their vices; their good and their bad qualities; and it is time that we should have some experience of what these are.

We are tired of this flower-life. We wish for permission to assume the human form, and to judge, for ourselves, whether that which they say above, of our character, is agreeable to truth."1

"We pride ourselves on being the first to advance the following aphorism : Flowers are the expression of society."1

Les Fleurs Animées - titlepages Vol. 1 + 2

Title pages from JJ Grandville's 'Les Fleurs Animées', 1847 {Volumes 1 & 2}

Bal - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Bal' (The Ball)

'Reine Marguerite, Campanule, Fuchsia, Pied d'Alouette, Muguet, Pyramidale, Liseron'

{China Aster, Canterbury Bell (Campanula), Lady's Ear Drop, Larkspur (Delphinum), Lily of the Valley, Pyramidale Bell Flower, Morning Glory}

Soleil - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Soleil' (Sunflower)

Aubépine - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Aubépine' (Hawthorn)

Bleuet et Coquelicot - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Bleuet et Coquelicot' (Cornflower and Poppy)

Bleuet et Coquelicot (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Bleuet et Coquelicot' [detail]

Chardon - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

Chardon (Thistle)

Capucine - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

Capucine (Nasturtium)

Ciguë - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

Ciguë (Hemlock)

Ciguë (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

Ciguë [detail]

Rose - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville


Flèche d'Eau - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Flèche d'Eau' (Arrowhead)

Narcisse - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Narcisse' (Daffodil)

Narcisse (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Narcisse' [detail]

Nenuphar - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Nenuphar' (Water Lily)

Nenuphar (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Nenuphar' [detail]

Retour des Fleurs - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Retour des Fleurs' (The Flowers Return)

Retour des Fleurs (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Retour des Fleurs' [detail]

Sensitive - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Sensitive' (Mimosa)

Sensitive (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Sensitive' [detail]

Thé et Café - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Thé et Café' (Tea and Coffee)

Vigne - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Vigne' (Grape Vine)

Vigne (detail) - Les Fleurs Animées - JJ Grandville

'Vigne' [detail]

(All these images have been background-cleaned2 and about half have had the colour saturation increased. The illustrations are all cropped from the full pages. Click through to large images; very large versions are also available3)

The delightful caprice of JJ Grandville's imaginative - and posthumously published - series of flower illustrations ensured that 'Les Fleurs Animées' was popularly received in 1847 and reissued and translated many times.

The thing is though, these anthropomorphic figures of apparent whimsical innocence are in fact serving as the visual arm of a satirical work that mocks the sentimentality and effusiveness with which flowers had been portrayed during the romantic era. The text by Taxile Delord is a parody of the style it targets and was intended to sound the death knell for Romanticism*. It also appears to kick out at an over-scientific attitude towards plants during the Enlightenment; at least in the introduction.

1'Les Fleurs Animées' was translated into English by Nehemiah Cleaveland [as 'The Flowers Personified'] immediately after its original publication. The quotes at the top are most likely OCR machine transcriptions and were slightly edited by me.
2The length of time spent assiduously cleaning these images is a private matter that may or may not be discussed in the future with an OCD therapist, should I ever choose to get one.
3In actual fact, the very large jpeg images - of the title pages and, as I recall, each illustration from volume 2 - for this post were obtained partly from Missouri Botanical Gardens old website ('Volumes'/'Structure' links at the top and then: 'View in Detail'): these very large images are missing for some illustrations at the Botanicus site.


Archidemon said...

It is "'Bleuet et Coquelicot' (Cornflower and Poppy)" not "'Bluet et Coquelicot' (Cornflower and Poppy)" and "'Bleuet et Coquelicot' [detail]" not "'Bluet et Coquelicot' [detail]". I know my English speaking friends have a hard time accepting there can be an "E" before a "U" but that's how it is : )

peacay said...

Fixed, thanks.

FenellaS said...

The Tea and Coffee one graced the opening of an American Scientist article I edited a few years ago about the history of coffee.

cavalaxis said...

Socrates bunny made me snort my soda. Thank you for these.

PIGNOUF said...

Génial! thanks

anna maria lopez [] said...

Love JJ Grandville's work, and Les Fleurs Animées is my fav one. Thanks for this article!

nickc said...


Lady Meerkat said...

I found the Socrates bunny amusing as well, but it was the big dead frog with rigor mortis that caught my eye first.

Karla said...

You can't go wrong with Grandville. And I'm pleased to learn that Nenuphar means waterlily (it hadn't occurred to me that the word might be translatable when I saw it as a title for a Kupka work--it sounds like it ought to be the name of an occult deity). However, are fuschias actually known to some people as "lady's ear drop"??? Really? Somehow that just boggles my North American mind.

Socrates Bunny and the dead frog are pretty good (now I'm tempted to contrast them with David's pompous Death of Socrates, which I just inflicted upon a class last week), and in general all the little animals and bugs are enchanting.

Karla said...

...FORGOT to say, let me know when you find that OCR--I mean OCD--therapist... what else have I forgotten... to do... to say... the image of the rodent puking up its hemlock is before me...

Neil said...

I assume you know Walter Crane's anthropomorphized flowers - I hadn't realized they had such a history.

Anonymous said...

I didn't really begin looking at the details you highlighted until I read the section about these pieces as a satire of romantic frippery.

It's already been commented on, but Socrates the Bunny is fantastic, as is the pipe-smoking beetle and the drunken bird.

I love your blog! Super excited about finding a place entirely devoted to books and things you find in musty corners.

DiamanteLoco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hi I am interested in buying the image titled 'the et cafe'
can you quote me the price??

peacay said...

rajat, there is no price. These pictures are out of copyright and are freely available from the Botanicus website. If you mean you want it as a poster, then I can't help you except to say that you would do well to take a large jpeg image to a print/photo/poster shop and ask if they can help you.

Unknown said...

Ironically, the images in Les Fleurs Animees were used in 1851. A German poet considered "The Forgotten poet of Romanticism" used them for his book of poetry. Die Pilgerfahrt der Blumengeister.

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